I have officially begun The Change of Life — like it or not. So far, it’s a not. I am kicking and screaming quite ungracefully in response to my right-on-time biological process.
It took me awhile to understand why I was having wild mood swings, bouts of brief yet intense depression and angry, almost uncontrollable outbursts. It happened with such infrequency that I was forced to chalk it up to “just being whacko.” But as these events happened with greater incidence, I knew in my gut what it was.
I dug out the only book I had on the subject, and starting reading it to try and get a grip. The book, Dr. Christiane Northrup’s “The Wisdom of Menopause,” came highly recommended.
Although I was tempted to skip to the parts explaining my particular symptoms, I forced myself to start at the beginning.
Imagine my surprise when the first part of the book addresses how menopause “puts your life under a microscope.” Huh? It turns out “relationship crises” are common during this female transition, and in fact, divorce is a frequent side effect.
Upon further review, Northrup explained the changes in our hormones affect our brains, giving us a keener perspective on the inequities or injustices in our lives, at the same time that we’re naturally transitioning from a care-for-others role to an it’s-my-time period.
Women who don’t address these issues head-on, but instead silence their feelings and aspirations, become the equivalent of a pressure cooker. If the issues remain unresolved, there is typically some type of health fallout.
Reading this spooked me a bit, but made total sense. My life went from a selfish, and at times self-serving, infant-teen-adult to a nurturing caretaker of a family of five — plus dogs, fish and horned toads when they’re in the mix. It’s only logical that once I shed my reproductive trappings, it’s my body’s cue that care giving is moving out of the number one spot, and all those dreams or wants I’ve set aside can now move onto center stage.
I certainly have pushed aside some personal yearnings across the years. My husband and I frequently put our kids’ needs above ours, but still find time to do many things that please us as individuals and as a couple, too. I freely admit kids do impede on our time alone.
As I digested Northrup’s claims, I realized my marriage seems to only be getting stronger, despite “whacko” moments caused by The Change, or maybe because of them and my ensuing ability to articulate my feelings and be rewarded with a husband who is supportive.
Moving on, I read about the myriad other possible issues related to menopause: weight gain, thyroid problems, hormone issues, fluctuating intense emotions, depression, memory loss, libido depletion, acne, odd hair growth, bone density loss, hot flashes, escalated heart disease risks and of course, real pain-in-the-neck “girl stuff” that always makes men say, “I’m so glad I’m a guy.”
Being an action kind of gal, I wanted to know if what I was experiencing was normal as most of my middle-aged peers are having fewer of the mood swings and depression and more of the a la carte items off the rest of the menu.
I’m normal. They’re normal. I should be glad I’m not getting it all. Yet.
I began keeping a “menopause journal” so I can track my “episodes” and see if that helps me identify some strategies.
According to Northrup, paying special attention to a healthy diet, getting proper exercise and a good night’s sleep every evening will also help tremendously. I already do those things, which I feel good about, but it’s a strong reminder to remain vigilant. Carbohydrates are not my friends (were they ever?); weight training is (yippee!).
Obviously, there are plenty of parts in this process I cannot change (funny how it’s called The Change). There is one I can: my attitude.
Instead of being upset that I can’t just sail into my fifties with all the wisdom and power that brings (I deserve that, so my thinking goes), I can embrace this unique challenge — using aforementioned attributes.
Instead of moaning about how much “menopause sucks,” I can remember to be thankful for my incredible body and all we’ve been through together, including reproduction.
After all, this is one of the last big hurdles, another rite of passage on my way to some kind of satisfied-life bliss as I approach the final frontier. I’ve been waiting most of a lifetime to ditch some of the stuff I’ve been saddled with just for being born female. Once I’m through this, it’s smooth sailing, right?
If I can remember how to sail, that is.
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